Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Distillery can now produce 400,000 barrels a year. | Photo by Sara Havens

As more and more new distilleries pop up throughout Louisville and Kentucky, one of the industry’s mainstays has been quietly expanding its operations right under our nose.

But today, at a press conference held on the premises of the Heaven Hill-owned Bernheim Distillery in West Louisville, representatives from the company, as well as local politicians and media, gathered to celebrate the latest news of the distillery’s $25 million expansion, which the company says will make it the largest single bourbon-producing site in the world.

Included in the expansion is a new 70-foot still, four large fermenters and new infrastructure to create space among the operating distillery.

Mayor Greg Fischer, Congressman John Yarmuth and Heaven Hill president Max Shapira sign the first barrel off the new still. | Photo by Sara Havens

Heaven Hill master distiller Denny Potter explained the task was to build a distillery within a distillery, expanding production by 33 percent and filling 400,000 barrels of whiskey a year.

“It’s another great day for bourbon, and another great day for Heaven Hill,” said Heaven Hill president Max Shapira at the press conference. “About 18 months ago, we realized we would be in big trouble if we didn’t expand rapidly enough to keep up with demand.”

Shapira said it’s the largest expansion since they’ve owned it on the site that dates back to 1881. The distillery has produced everything from I.W. Harper and Old Fitzgerald in the early days, to (now) Heaven Hill brands like Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Larceny and Henry McKenna, among others.

The Belmont Distillery was the first distillery built on the site in 1881, and the Bernheim Distilling Co. later purchased it and relocated its Bernheim Distillery there in 1933.

It was purchased by Heaven Hill from Diageo in 1999. And also of note, it’s only a stone’s throw away from Brown-Forman’s headquarters.

Mayor Greg Fischer and Congressman John Yarmuth were there to recognize the achievement, and both spoke about the positive attributes Heaven Hill is adding to the community.

“It’s a fun and exciting time to be in Louisville,” said Fischer. “This is an example of a really wise investment by people who know what they’re doing.”

He pointed out that in 2011, there were no bourbon distilleries or experiences in Louisville, and now there are 11 either operational or planned to open within the next year.

Yarmuth added, “It’s an amazing addition to our city and to whiskey production worldwide.”

Heaven Hill also announced a partnership with Dare to Care and donated $10,000 to help fight hunger in West Louisville.

The new still and fermenters are up and running, and Shapira said he hoped to hit the 400,000 barrels/year mark very soon. Of course, those will join the already aging 1.3 million barrels the company has in Jefferson and Nelson counties.

Here are more photos from today’s press conference and tour of the Bernheim Distillery:

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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